ONCE upon a time, back in the days when I drove vehicles rather than sitting in the front seat of the top deck of vehicles and pretending to drive, I was involved in a very minor accident.
I was driving carefully along a wintry road when I hit a patch of black ice. My steering wheel became as useless as the imaginary wheel I employ on buses, and my car slid slowly towards another car, parked against the pavement.
It gave me time to accept the accident as it was happening, to watch it unfolding with a sort of horrified yet fascinated resignation.
I have had a similar feeling as I have witnessed the baffling rise of Donald Trump.
Let us leave aside any jibes about the suitability to office of a man who believes that haircut to be acceptable in polite company, or that his skin colour should then match that hair.
If anything, the fact that he clearly does not know what he is doing and cannot even commit to a consistent position on the parting of his hair appears to be central to his appeal. His pitch, as far as one is discernible, is “Vote for me! I have no idea what I am doing but how hard can it be?”
And the voters of the Republican Party are lapping it up. “We love Trump,” Mr Hiram Z. Notactuallyreal told me yesterday, “because he tells it like it is.”
Even the fact it has been pointed out that Trump repeatedly tells it like it isn’t has failed to dent his popularity, because it just goes to show that the establishment is rattled by him.
Trump is riding the wave of anti-politics feeling that is washing over the western world at the moment. It is the same feeling which put Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the Labour Party – an appetite for easy answers, and a sense that career politicians cannot be trusted.
But what is so wrong with career politicians? Why is it uniquely the politician who gets it in the neck for knowing how to do her job?
If I were lying on an operating table waiting to be anaesthetised, I would not complain that the consultant is a career surgeon. I would not say: “Ugh! Get away from me, you charlatan, with your qualifications and your many years of experience. Fetch me an orange businessman who had a cameo in Home Alone 2 and who is rich enough not to be in the pocket of Big Pharma.”
Because what Trump and Corbyn and Nigel Farage and the rest of the easy answers brigade fail to acknowledge is that politics is actually a tricky business. It involves building alliances, and balancing the needs of various interest groups, because every decision that a government makes benefits some people and annoys others. Like everything I do, apart from the benefit part.
And that is exactly what Trump would discover if the sky turned blood red and the seas boiled and Piers Morgan married Susanna Reid, and the war crime-advocating, Ku Klux Klan-endorsed, failed meat salesman ended up in the White House.
He would have to take into account the views of Congress, from his own party and the Democrats. He could not just stomp about, insulting the losers and whiners who stand in his way, and imposing his will. Even if he did have the nuclear codes.
To get anything done, he would have to build alliances, grant favours, ask for other favours. He would have to disappoint large sections of the electorate who voted for him.
In short, he would have to become a politician. And if you’re going to vote for a politician, you might as well pick somebody who already knows how to play the game.
I have a rule when it comes to voting, and it has proved me right over and over again. It is “never vote for anybody you suspect incapable of using the phrase ‘It’s not as simple as that’,” or NVFAYSIOUTPINASAT for short.
It’s a good rule to follow in the upcoming EU referendum, and a much better reason to vote Remain than the fact that you can’t take Nigel Farage seriously because he owns a pair of yellow trousers and looks like an enthusiastic frog.
That sort of insult cheapens the debate and you should refuse to have any part in it. Like Donald Trump’s hair.
3 thoughts on “COLUMN: March 3, 2016”
I think the issue people have with career politicians is that they will insist on meddling with things which they have no idea about and which they are not qualified to interfere with, such as Jeremy Hunt with the NHS, IDS with Welfare, Chris Grayling with justice and Nicky Morgan with education.
Absolutely! A career politician would listen to his, or her, advisors, not pursue personal whims completely at odds with the best advice of those who know.
Thanks, this sort of answered a question I didn’t even know I was asking myself (which is quite disturbing in its own right).